But a lovely close second is Shieldwall: Barbarians!, by M. Harold Page. It’s more historical fiction than fantasy, imaginatively filling in all the gaps in the historians’ records of the Siege of Orleans, when Attila the Hun brought his whole army to bear on the walls, and the defenders prevailed — nobody now is quite sure why. Page wrote the book to be an old-fashioned adventure story for his son, and it does have the feel of the YA historicals of my youth. Hengest, a prince fostered among Romans, must lead his father’s Jutish warband to rescue his sister from slavery. Her abductors’ trail leads into the most dangerous war zone in Hengest’s world. I’m looking forward to the next volume.
Here’s what I can’t figure out: Why is there not more buzz about Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series? The debut volume, Traitor’s Blade, was my favorite book of 2014. The second, Knight’s Shadow, is my favorite of 2015, and it’s hard to imagine the rest of the year bringing me a book I could like better. Nothing against the year — it’s just that de Castell is that good. When the projected series of four volumes is complete, I predict it will come to be spoken of as a classic.